Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Quaykr in the Maykr

Early this year I began attending Quaker Meetings every week in Cornwall, NY. The meetings are a time for silent worship. Occasionally, when someone is so moved, they speak. This past meeting, one friend spoke of current developments in her life. She was asking about relevance and what is relevant in one's life and then she said that death asks us to ask difficult questions.
This phrase struck me as a rather poignant personification of death.
It got me thinking of the analog between making art and living one's life. Creation is the thing. Making art is a concentric inner life within life. Without killing spontaneity,ideally, one is constantly picking through elements of this or that piece, checking the relevance of each action to the whole of the composition. If at the end of this piece, I've not made an act of relevance - what then? I try doing it again. If on the other hand, I have made something embodying a level of relevance for myself - what then? I try doing it again.
Art is not only the act of creating but the act of dying. Constant pre-deaths, the repeated cycle of crucial struggles between effort validated and effort regretted. In the midst of it and through the completion of a painting there is present the possibility of outcome not expected and a possibility of the expected not living up to snuff. In either case, the questions need then be asked; Is it there? Is it any good? Can I live with this? The completion of a painting is a death. The end of a process. The end of one existence and the beginning of another. The process comes with satisfaction and some pain, but in facing these difficult questions, in time I find the answers are not so scary. If I die enough times on canvas or in the crusted paint roller covers I assemble together in an installation, the notion of this other big sleep can feel less like a deadline, and more an arbitrary, extended, hiatus. It's the random, and happenstance married with the intentional that creates and makes this artsy corpse of mine so exquisite. Good or bad, you just make another. In the face of it all, one can see that the search for relevance can be futile. Relevance is transitory, futility, endemic. Crafting relevance is presupposing an outcome, and unnaturally so. Relevance is the residue, not the catalyst. It either fits your taste or not.
Such are the lives we create for ourselves. Each day a new piece in an extended oeuvre. I feel fortunate that I'm pursuing a discipline that evokes such an intense process of reflection and query.
That type of honest assessment for which death prompts us to seek is mirrored by the artist's search for resolution to a particular visual problem.

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